Will Muschamp and his staff have a reputation of tenacity and success on the recruiting trail. While he has had numerous misses, specifically on the offensive side of the ball, Muschamp has landed some of the top recruiting classes in the country. According to Rivals.com, since 2011, Will Muschamp’s recruiting classes have finished as the 12th, 3rd, and 4th best class in the country. (The 2014 recruiting class is currently ranked 9th.)
However, with that reputation and the final rankings in mind, what has made up the University of Florida’s recruiting classes? Where have there been hits? Misses? Are the classes balanced? Who exactly is on Florida’s roster?
Before delving too deep, it is important to get a clear picture of how many types of players Will Muschamp is recruited. (Note: Since the 2014 class has not signed their letter of intent, they will not be included in this analysis.)
Over the previous three recruiting classes, Will Muschamp has recruited five five-star players, thirty-five four-star players, twenty-eight three-star players, and two two-star players.
Number of Player Recruited
Looking at the breakdown, Florida has recruited 30 offensive players, 37 defensive players and three kickers, which is somewhat balanced. (However, the transfers have specifically favored the offensive side of the ball, so one would desire a higher number on the offensive side to compensate.)
Analyzing the recruiting class is tough because hindsight is always 20/20 and sometimes players do not work out for a variety of reasons, but analyze we must.
The Gators have done an exceptional job recruiting defensive backs. As long as Muschamp is the head coach at Florida, there will never be a problem recruiting defensive backs. During the past three recruiting cycles, the Gators have recruited starters Vernon Hargreaves, Brian Poole, Jabari Gorman, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson. Further, the Gators are expecting more over the next few seasons from Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye who have gained valuable experience already. Finally, Marcell Harris and Nick Washington are expected to play in their redshirt freshman year next year. Of the other five defensive backs Muschamp has recruited, Willie Bailey, Chris Johnson (moved to offense), Rhaheim Ledbetter (moved to offense) and De’Ante Saunders transferred, while Valdez Showers moved to the offensive side of the ball and has shown flashes of being a game changer, but has not put it all together yet.
Moreover, Muschamp has recruited the running back position well, even though he has had a few misses. The Gators should be stacked at the position for the next couple of seasons, and could get a great addition with 2014 running back Dalvin Cook to be the change of pace back. However, with a stable of Matt Jones, Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor, the Gators should be just fine at running back. Jones should be fully healthy next year; Taylor showed some outstanding flashes as a freshman, and redshirt freshman Lane should prove to be a good between-the-tackles running back. Further, fullback Hunter Joyer, while light in offensive production, has proven to be a great blocker and could be an NFL player.
The quarterback position is just about in shambles, and while Will Grier is coming in 2014, he cannot be included in this analysis. The Gators were able to grab two Rivals top-100 players in Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett in 2011, in a situation that was never going to work out – one was inevitably going to transfer. With the both players in the roster in 2012, the Gators had trouble securing a top quarterback and settled on Skyler Mornhinweg. Going into 2013, the Gators had the opportunity again to grab another top quarterback, but instead, settled on Max Staver. With Brissett and Staver now transferred and Mornhinweg showing he was nothing more than a career back-up, the Gators are one snap away next season from playing a weak quarterback in Mornhinweg, or a true freshman – a situation no school wants to find itself in. The Gators failed to lock down anything in between Driskel and Grier and that fault falls on Will Muschamp and ousted offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
The tight end position is in just as much as disarray as the quarterback. Of the three tight ends Muschamp has recruited only one remains on the roster, Colin Thompson, while A.C. Leonard and Kent Taylor both transferred for different reasons. The current depth chart at tight end includes two converted defensive ends (Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook) and a redshirt sophomore that has not played a down at UF in Thompson. With the lack of production out of the tight end position with the crop of players going into the 2013 season, you have to wonder why a tight end was not recruited for the 2013 class.
Finally, the offensive line is in all sorts of trouble. Although the Gators recruited five offensive linemen in the 2013 class, they only recruited four in the previous two seasons and of those nine: Jessamen Dunker transferred, Tommy Jordan ended his career, and Trevon Young transferred, and four of them have not played a down at UF. Of those two have been recruited only Humphries has been a consistent starter, while Trenton Brown played due to injuries. The Gators will hope to see Cameron Dillard play at center next year, and hope that Octavius Jackson and Roderick Johnson can play as redshirt freshmen. Trip Thurman will also hope to play more, but has not played much during his career at Florida. All in all, if it were not for the transfers of Max Garcia and Tyler Moore, the Gators porous offensive line would be even worse.
While the jury is still out on the quality of the defensive tackles the Gators have signed, they have certainly under-recruited the position. Out of the past three classes, Florida has only signed six defensive tackles. That would not be so bad had one not transferred (JaFar Mann) and one not qualified (Jarran Reed). The Gators were able to get two years of productivity out of Damien Jacobs, have one more season out of Darious Cummings, and should be able to get a lot of production out of Caleb Brantley and Jay’nard Bostwick, but that does not provide good depth for a Gators defense that rotates a ton of players.
Similar to the defensive tackle position, the Gators have recruited talent to the linebacking corp, just not enough. During Muschamp’s first two years of recruiting the Gators only signed Antonio Morrison, Graham Stewart and Jeremi Powell; and of those, only Morrison and Powell remain. Florida re-focused their efforts in 2013 and signed Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian, Matt Rolin and Jarrad Davis, all of whom will likely play a lot throughout their UF career. However, with only six linebackers in three years currently on the team, the staff is to blame for under-recruiting, no matter how good the ones you signed are.
Now is a time to look at the current class and see how it helps fill in some of the holes.
While the class is incomplete and not signed, looking at the status quo Florida is able to fill some holes, while it still needs to address others.
The Gators will bring in Grier, and likely another quarterback, to add depth behind Driskel and Mornhinweg. Look for the Gators to get a quarterback similar to Jeff Driskel with the ability to run. The Gators will still have a very scary situation with little experience behind Jeff Driskel no matter how many quarterbacks the Gators have on their roster.
At running back, Cook adds the change of pace back Florida is looking for to compliment their stable. He has the speed, agility, and vision that Florida lacks out of their current group. While he says he is 100% committed to Florida, the Gators will nervously wait for Cook to come to UF.
The Gators have not signed a fullback and will need to sign at least one with Ajagbe and Joyer completing their eligibility soon.
The Gators have Ermon Lane and Ryan Sousa committed at wide receiver. Lane is a great possession receiver that will excel in the “X” wide receiver role, while Sousa will excel as a slot receiver. Both Lane and Sousa bring a high ceiling and will be valuable additions to the corp.
At tight end, Florida has sealed commitments from C’yontai Lewis, Deandre Goolsby and Moral Stephens, although Lewis and Stephens have to grow into their frames. Goolsby should contribute as a freshman, while Lewis and Stephens may need some time. The Gators are still very raw at tight end and lack a tight end that can both block and catch., but it is a step forward.
At offensive line, the Gators have Dontae Angus, Travaris Dorsey, Nolan Kelleher and David Sharpe committed. I believe all four will redshirt, as freshmen linemen should. The Gators could still use one-to-two more commitments, especially in the tackle position. If a player were to burn a redshirt, I see it being David Sharpe or Travaris Dorsey.
On the defensive line, Khairi Clark is the only committed defensive tackle, while Taven Bryan and Justus Reed are defensive ends. Clark has a chance of playing next season, a good change, while Bryan and Reed will likely not play. The Gators need to sign at least one more defensive tackle, preferably two, to maintain depth.
At linebacker, the Gators have zero commitments and may not sign a linebacker, which has been a huge problem for the Gators. A team should sign at least two linebackers per cycle, but the Gators inconsistency in recruiting linebackers is odd and unexplainable.
At defensive back, the Gators are bringing in another great haul with Chris Lammons, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson. The Gators defensive backfield will again be stacked with talent. The Gators could also land safety Jamal Adams.
In summation, the Gators find themselves struggling at recruiting the fullback, defensive tackle and linebacker positions and find themselves with quite a few holes entering the 2014 season because of a lack of depth. While the 2014 recruiting class will help fill some holes, you cannot help but worry about the strength of the Florida roster.